Vernacular architecture of any region reflects the attitude of its people towards their living style, which further defined by the prevailing realities of that region. Gilgit Baltistan being isolated within the mountain and predominated by extreme climate has developed a singular culture of its own. This article is all about the Vernacular Architecture of Gilgit Baltistan.
That unique culture and its tangible outcome within the sort of architecture represent the indigenous wisdom of dwellers of that region.
The artistic fusion and native knowledge of materiality with the region’s unique cultural norms and valves have born to historic icons like Baltit fort, Altit fort, Shigar fort, Khaplu fort and historic Mosques.
The abundant use of communal spaces like ‘Jataq’ (gathering space for religious and cultural activities), Shabaran and Baldi in local architecture are samples of this fusion.
In the Baltit fort, we will see the amalgamation of various architectural elements, but the essence of local architecture has been kept through the utilization of local materials, architectural elements like a rotated square skylight, in local language termed as Sagham while Cribbage may be a technique wont to make building earthquake resistant, is especially utilized in this region.
As far as art and architecture are concerned, there is a long tradition of Ladakh’s political-cultural relationships with other neighboring states such as Kashmir, Tibet, and Baltistan, as well as trade relations with Yarkand, Khotan, and Kashgar.
Because of these relationships, the region’s art and architecture were heavily influenced. Kashmiri, Tibetan, and Gandharan art are commonly found in Buddhist monasteries (Gonpa) and Stupas (Chorten), along with fresco paintings on monastery walls depicting Buddha’s Jataka stories.
In addition, Buddha and Bodhisattvas bronze, copper and gold statues are found in large numbers in monasteries such as Fotang at Bodkharbu and Wakha, Karcha monastery at Zanskar, Mulbek monastery at Mulbekh and Chorten (stupa), and many others.
The religious elements of the region influenced the way of life and a profound impact on the art and architecture of the region. It took a long art from Buddhism, Kashmiri, Tibato, and Gandhara, while it introduced Persian, Indo-Islamic art to Islam.
Vernacular Architecture of Gilgit Baltistan
The people of Gilgit Baltistan (Northern Areas) are, by and enormous, farmers. In most the areas visited there’s no hereditary occupational structure within the villages, apart from the Beyricho, who are singers and blacksmiths.
These two professions being interlinked throughout the Subcontinent. As such, most families have some members of the opposite who manages to find out the way to work stone or timber, or both, through necessity. it’s these “artisans” who are liable for putting up the overwhelming majority of buildings within the rural parts of Gilgit Baltistan.
Traditionally, the buildings put up by the agricultural population were their own houses, Langar Khanas, Pir Khanas and sometimes a little classroom of these buildings have an equivalent design. they’re built around a central fireplace and are almost square in dimension.
There are not any internal walls. The division of space is made by varying ground levels. The external walls are of mud bonded stone rubble and windowless. the sole opening is within the roof above the fireside. The roof itself is supported on four timber posts.
These are sometimes linked at the plinth level by timber members so on resist earthquake forces. the ground is generally of compacted earth and within the case of the more affluent, of timber boards. The roof consists of rough timber rafters covered with branches of trees.
These, in turn, are covered with ‘Halli’ the skin of the ‘Tall’ tree, for water-proofing, and eventually with ‘Qara’ (earth mixed with agricultural waste).
The construction of Jamaat Khana, government rest houses, offices, roads and bridges within the NA, and job opportunities within the developing townships of Gilgit, Skardu, and Chilas, have trained tons of masons and carpenters and created a replacement professional class of artisans.
Those who became slightly more affluent thanks to the recent changes which have taken place within the NA, employ these workmen for the development of their houses, thus improving the standard of construction.
The materials of construction, however, remain an equivalent (stone, timber, mud) and therefore the traditional house design persists with minor variations because it is suitable for an extreme winter climate.
Read also: Art and craft of Gilgit Baltistan